Chris's father, John, agrees. "Remember, all we are talking about here is winning one game," he says. "If it has given him a boost, that's terrific. But if he hadn't won, that would have been fine, too."
The underlying fear here is obvious: What if this turns out to be life's finest hour for Chris and the others? John, who has given the question plenty of thought, says. "If this is the high point in Chris's life, then one of the keys will be how well he deals with the frustration of that. Still, if the hockey and the baseball are his life's highlights, they wouldn't be bad highlights, would they? As long as he learns to deal with them gracefully."
Says Marcia, "I don't think Chris thinks this will be the highlight of his life."
She knows her son. Chris wrinkles his nose in disdain at any suggestion that he might find himself at age 40 standing at a party talking about his Little League exploits back in '89. "Really, I plan on doing a lot more," he says.
According to Anne Petersen, dean of Penn State's College of Health and Human Development, difficulties can arise when something like the Trumbull triumph "becomes the highlight of the parents' lives. That puts too much emphasis on the achievement, and the child gets to thinking, I've done it all. What more is there? Now is the time for parents to be teaching broader meanings of life."
If the parents of the players needed a forewarning of such a syndrome, they got it after the team's one playoff loss, to Bridgeport Park City, during the double-elimination district tournament. A swimming party for the players and parents had been planned for after the game. The party went on as scheduled, but as Galla recalls, "The boys sulked for about 10 minutes and then went on and had a wonderful time. The parents sulked all night."
Richard Lerner, professor of child and adolescent development at Penn State, takes a positive view of Trumbull's victory. "These kids have learned at an early age how to achieve," he says. "Chris has learned the value of teamwork and that he can rely on his peers and on adults. These lessons should help him get over nonathletic hurdles in life."
Ken Paul, father of another of the team's stars, pitcher Andy Paul, says, "Keep this in perspective. What happened is that in the final two games, Andy and Chris pitched the games of their lives, back to back. It was like it was scripted. But my concern for Andy was that he was scared, and that as a little boy, he'd break down and we'd be talking about therapy for the next 30 years."
John had a similar concern: "When I knew Chris would be going to Williamsport, I thought, I damn well better be there to support him in case he gets shelled."
In the semifinals in Williamsport, against San Pedro, Calif., three of the first six batters Andy faced hit home runs. Then, relying almost entirely on a "dart" pitch assistant coach Eddie Wheeler had taught Andy and Chris for the postseason—it's an overhand drop ball that Wheeler says puts none of the stress of a curveball on a young arm—San Pedro got only one more hit in Trumbull's 6-3 victory. Similarly Chris, who in the championship game had two hits, drove in two runs and scored a third, got into a jam in the fifth inning, when Taiwan loaded the bases with one out. Relying on the dart pitch, he allowed just one run in the inning and went on to win 5-2. Never did he lose his composure. Says his father, "Chris has never been in a situation where the competition overwhelmed him."